(Family Division; Charles J; 13 December 2005)
Following the death of a child, the child's sibling was removed from the parents' care, on the basis of a finding that the mother was responsible for the death, having obstructed the dead child's airways on four separate occasions. The expert who had supported the finding most strongly was Professor Meadow. The parents continued to maintain that the death had been a natural one after the dismissal of their appeal. The parents subsequently had a third child, who was removed by the local authority, which brought care proceedings based upon the findings in the previous care proceedings. The parents sought to challenge the original finding of fact on the basis that fresh medical evidence might now result in a different conclusion.
It was important that all parties considered closely and defined the issues they maintained the court would have to consider and decide and thereby sought to ensure that new issues and requests for further investigations and expert or other evidence were not raised late in the day or at the last moment. The parents had to satisfy a high test to prevent the local authority and the court from relying on earlier findings as to which permission to appeal had been refused. In this case, the credibility of the mother would remain an important factor in deciding between inflicted harm and a natural or non-accidental cause of the child's death. Notwithstanding the common stance of the parties that if the court decided that the finding of fact could not be relied upon then the threshold conditions would not be established in relation to the third child, there would continue to be issues as to the effect of such a decision on the jurisdiction of the court and thus, the obligations and abilities of the authorities to take further steps to promote the child's welfare.